Clock gene helps plants prepare for spring flowering, study shows

Mar 08, 2012

Scientists have made fresh discoveries about the processes that govern plants' internal body clocks and help them adjust to changing seasons, triggering the arrival of flowers in spring.

Researchers tested computer models of in a simple cress plant to determine the role played by a protein, known as TOC1, in governing these daily cycles. The model shows how 12 work together to run the plant's complex clockwork, and reset the clock at dawn and dusk each day.

Researchers found that the TOC1 , which was previously associated with helping plants to wake up, is in fact involved in dampening in the evening, helping them stay dormant at night.

The findings, from the University of Edinburgh, contradict what scientists had previously understood about the gene and its role in early morning activity. in Barcelona independently reached a similar conclusion to the Edinburgh team. The two studies pave the way for further research to define how the cycles improve and allow plants to adapt to our changing environment.

These internal 24-hour cycles – known as circadian clocks – also allow people, animals and plants to make tiny adjustments as daylight changes, and adapt to changing seasons. Researchers hope their discovery will bring them a step closer to understanding other seasonal rhythms that affect plants and people – including the flowering of staple crops such as wheat, barley and rice, and the breeding patterns of animals.

The Edinburgh-led study, published in Molecular Systems Biology, was funded by the European Commission, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The Barcelona-led study, published in Science, was funded by the European Commission, the Ramón Areces Foundation, and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Professor Andrew Millar, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who led the modelling study, said: "The 24-hour rhythms of biological clocks affect all living things including plants, animals and people, with wide-ranging effects on sleep, metabolism and immunity. We are now far better placed to understand how this complex process impacts on the plant's life and what happens when the rhythms are interrupted, for example by climate change."

Professor Paloma Mas, of the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics in Spain, who led the experimental study, said: "The biological clock controls essential processes in plant growth and development, such as flowering and the control of growth by light. We can now extend the knowledge we have gained of cyclic processes to the major crops and other plants of agronomic interest."

Explore further: The malaria pathogen's cellular skeleton under a super-microscope

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists show that plants have measure of the shortest day

Dec 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It is not only people who feel the effects of short winter days - new research by the University of Edinburgh and the University of Warwick has shed light on how plants calculate their own winter solstice. ...

Clockwork plants

Mar 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- How do plants tell the time and the passing of the seasons? Plant scientists are enlisting the help of engineers in their quest to uncover the rhythms of circadian clocks.

Recommended for you

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

13 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

Rapid and accurate mRNA detection in plant tissues

14 hours ago

Gene expression is the process whereby the genetic information of DNA is used to manufacture functional products, such as proteins, which have numerous different functions in living organisms. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

Apr 16, 2014

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...